When I first came to Open Door Churches in 2017 I was assigned to spend my Sunday mornings at Keizer Clear Lake UMC. One of the practices they had in worship was to gather everyone in a circle around the worship space and to hold hands as they sang the last verse of the closing hymn together. The thing I appreciated most about this practice is that we are able to see all the faces of the people joining together in worship at Clear Lake that morning.
For over a year now we have been worshiping online and by the telephone and unable to see the faces of those we are worshiping with. We have had to adapt and change the way we connect with one another. The only way I knew who was actually worshiping alongside me in worship was if they said something in the chat. And even then it took a bit of detective work as usernames in the chat are not always first and last names of who is chatting. Beyond the chat I was able to see a count of the number of devices tuning in to the service. But there wasn’t a way to know if this device was sharing worship for an individual, a couple, or a family.
The past couple of weeks it has been wonderful to be physically present in our sanctuaries and begin putting faces to the names of the people in the chat and to meet people who have been worshiping online or by phone for the past year. But at the same time it is so wonderful that people have a choice to worship in person or online. I have enjoyed chatting with people physically in the space and also continuing to chat with people online at the same time.
Currently at Open Door Churches we are in a series called, “Reframing Church” and this past Sunday our question of focus was ‘Who is church?’ Over the past year, I know the way I identified the ‘who’ of church has grown. It reminds me of a song that Morningside UMC’s music team Joyful Noise has shared with us in worship called, “Draw the Circle Wide”.
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. No one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide. Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still. Let this be our song: no one stands alone. Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
My prayer as we step forward in faith and love is that we continue to Draw the Circle Wide. To continue to expand the ‘who’ of church beyond the walls of the sanctuary.
~Pastor Alyssa Baker
1. Light, Gordon, and Mark A. Miller. Worship and Song.